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Craig Oliver's Rant At Norman Smith - Anything New?

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CRAIG OLIVER NORMAN SMITH
Craig Oliver's Rant At Norman Smith Instantly Went Viral | -

By Number 10 director of communications standards, Craig Oliver's had a fairly low-key first year in the job. But he's just done what everyone in that line of work knows is ill-advised; he's become the story.

His diatribe against Norman Smith for the BBC's alleged unfair treatment of the PM and the "spiders web" of entanglement with News International and Leveson has gone viral - despite the first video being removed from YouTube another copy of it appeared on Guido Fawkes within minutes.

As a former BBC TV executive, Oliver has also behaved like a donkey by doing something everyone who works in broadcasting usually learns the hard way; say nothing near any camera or microphone that you wouldn't be happy seeing transmitted, because equipment has a nasty habit of being left on, recording statements which were meant to be off-record.

Unfortunately if in your working life you're constantly surrounded by cameras and mics, it's often easy to get sloppy and forget they're there. One day you'll say something you'll regret, because it's been picked up by a stray piece of equipment.

Is there another former occupant of Downing Street who learned this the hard way? Oh yes...

It happened to me, once, working for Radio 4 - it certainly helps to focus the mind. Fortunately for me my indiscretion in a radio studio happened long, long before the era of YouTube. So to the best of my knowledge (and with any luck) all evidence of it has been deleted.

But as for what Craig Oliver said to Norman Smith - it's actually quite tame compared to some of the legendary phone calls Alastair Campbell made to the BBC in 2003 and 2004 at the height of the Iraq War. The Today programme newsroom phone would regularly ring during broadcast with complaints from Number 10 about unfair treatment.

And it was voiceferous - far noisier than anything revealed on YouTube between Smith and Oliver in Downing Street. All Oliver has done is remonstrate with a political hack, something that happens all the time. Journalists are pretty much free to accept the moans or reject them.

As usual, though, it's not the error which is the story, it's the attempt to get it covered up. Whoever ordered the original video taken off YouTube (and the user whose account name Malcolm Tucker was also deleted) was trying to achieve the impossible - shutting the social media door after the horse has bolted.

Even after the original file was deleted the video was still open on my screen - just as it will have been on dozens of other screens across Westminster. Free video capturing software would have meant that someone, if not Guido, would have put the video back on YouTube within minutes.

Number 10 and the BBC are both denying they were behind the initial takedown - but if not them, then whom?

If it was Number 10, it's inept and outdated of them to think it could be suppressed, once it had made its way online for the first time.

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